Listening to Arnold say “Collyvornia” during his press conference, I realized that his opponents can’t even mock his accent anymore. Let’s say they run an ad that features a musclebound lummox speaking in those dulcet Austrian tones; let’s say a reporter asks Arnie to comment. He could go dead serious, and say “Ah dunt beleaf in making fun uf an immigranz ahgcent.” Beat. Big toothy grin. “Unless Ahm togging about myszelf. Zen vut ze hell.”

Fifty thousand more votes, right there.

If Arnold is the savior of California, I guess that means that Jesse Ventura was his John the Baptist. He was the first to show that large blunt men with muscle-centric showbiz careers could assume the governorship of a state - but that’s where the similarity ends. Ventura was incapable of projecting an easy-going image; he was too suspicious, too prickly. He loathed the media. He hated the establishment in all its manifestations. He was, in essence, a biker-hippie. He never knew when to pick his fights, so he picked them all.

Arnold is much smarter than that. It’s possible Ventura is brighter than Arnold, but Schwartzenegger instinctively grasps that simple truth Jesse could never accept: to win the game you have to play the game. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read about Schwartzenegger where it’s blaringly obvious the reporter was charmed to death by the Arnold Persona - if they were expecting a monosyllabic trog hunched in his trailer eating meat off a bone, they were surprised to find a rather urbane fellow with a goofy streak. If they were expecting a guarded celeb who’s always in PR Mode, they would get flashes of Serious Arnie, then the Effortlessly Relaxed Arnie, then some whispered asides that let the reporter in on the mechanics of being a public figure.

I mean, the guy’s good - as a celeb, that is. His qualifications to govern the fifth largest economy on the planet? Absolutely none, as far as I can tell. But people won’t vote for him because they think he has the magic combination of legal skill and legislative prowess to push through a calibrated series of tariffs and user fees to balance the budget. They’ll vote for him because he’s more likable and trustworthy than the alternatives, and because they think he will Do The Right Thing. Not a complex or nuanced reaction, perhaps, but that’s what it usually comes down to regardless of who’s running.

Will he win? Well, he’ll bring new voters to the polls - we saw this in Minnesota with Jesse. People who never voted will find it cool to vote for Arnie, and even though they might not be the most sophisticated participant in the process, they’ll probably intuit that a vote isn’t just a thumbs-up statement. It means something. Yelling “I bought your video” doesn’t really put an actor in your debt, but shouting “I voted for you” somehow does.

In any case, it’ll change a few minds about the possibilities of politics. All their life they saw politicians as nothing more than nerdy bloodless grinbots, and now here’s this guy: a giant with a gap-tooth smile smoking a Montecristo the size of Gray Davis’ shinbone. Heck yeah!

Only in America. And I say that as a good thing. Which reminds me: like all typical examples of American craziness, this will just horrify the Europeans.

The server issue has been resolved, obviously. It wasn’t a local issue - my computer didn’t crash. Lileks.com is physically located in some Texas burb, and someone down there had a skinful of Shiner when he performed some maintenance tasks on the server. Down it went. And the backup went as well, which makes me wonder if there wasn’t some elaborate slapstick-style mishap that resulted in every server pushed out of the rack and knocked to the floor, with our hero struggling with cables like Cap’n Nemo fighting the squid.

So what did you miss? Squat, really. The story of Gnat’s birthday party will be told in Sunday’s newspaper column, and the details I left out are either dull or reflect poorly on me, your host. Okay, one detail. I washed a paper plate. I wondered what someone would think if they walked in while I was carefully scrubbing the thing - oh, the poor dears, she’s out of work and they’re having to cut back by reusing paper plates! No. It was a Rolie Polie Olie paper plate - that was Gnat’s theme. I saved a plate, a cup, a napkin, and a party hat. And the banner. Put them all in a Ziploc bag; put the wax-candle 3 in another bag and stored them away in the box that holds her birthday decorations. May it give some grandchild pause some day: wow, Mom was into robots.

The cake was hilarious, and you can’t often say that. Not even your nude novelty cakes have hilarity baked in, but this one was just ridiculous. They didn’t have Rolie Polie Olie cakes at the store, but they said they’d make one based on the napkin design. The Frosting Artist did her best, and indeed faithfully reproduced the image of Olie. But the napkin picture showed Olie’s face being licked by Spot the Dog, and Olie had one eye half-closed to indicate, well, the normal ewww / cut-it-out reaction to dog lickage. And that’s how the Frosting Artist portrayed him: one eye half-shut as though he’d had a stroke.

Aside from that, it’s been the usual. Work, rest, play, a bad Woody Allen movie, Target -

- What am I saying? I went to a different Target. Do you hear me? A DIFFERENT TARGET. By the narrow, navel-gazing-with-an- electron-microscope standards of this site, this practically qualifies as changing my party affiliation. On Mondays I take Gnat to a gym class in the burbs, and while she bounces and jumps I go to this buff new Target. The carts are new. The signage is different. The layout is a mirror-image of my Target, so it takes a while to find things; it’s like the Shelbyville Target.
Afterwards, coffee; after that, back to pick up Gnat. They were making masks. Odd little masks on sticks with feathers, the sort of thing I associate with decadent European aristocratic orgies.

“Oh great,” I said to Pete, the guy who was helping Gnat glue the feathers. He has an IQ of 934, and rattles off this amazing patter that flies six miles over the heads of the kids. They love him. “’The mask will be a big hit,” I said, “because ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ is her favorite movie.”

He looked at me with the oddest expression.

“You know how kids are,” I continued. “They latch on to one movie and see it over and over and over again.”

The female half of the gym team peered at me. “Did you just say ‘Eyes Wide Shut’?”

I said that I did.

“That’s what HE just said!” she said, slapping him with a popsicle stick. “Sick minds think alike!”

It’s not sick; it’s not even all that clever. How can you not make an Eyes Wide Shut reference when presented with a dozen feathered masks on sticks? Back home. Did Hugh Hewitt’s show, for which I am always grateful. He’s running folk music bumpers. Classic folk music. I hate that stuff. My dad had a Kingston Trio record, and even at the tender age of 7 I could tell this stuff was for dweebs. The sound probably hung in your clothes like cigarette smoke; you’d pass bullies, they’d twitch their nose, hiss “Tom Dooley!” and beat you up. It’s so frickin’ earnest, that’s what kills me. And so lyrically inane: “If I had a hammer.” Well, what’s stopping you? Go to the hardware store; they’re about a buck-ninety, tops.

Perhaps I the only one who winced at this: “God has once again brought an Easter out of Good Friday.' said Rev. Gene Robinson after his election as the first openly gay bishop. Good heavens, man, why don’t you just do the full James Cameron: hop up on the cross and shout I’m King of the Jews!

This story has irritated me from the start, and it has nothing to do with Rev. Robinson’s sexual orientation. The guy left his wife and kids to go do the hokey-pokey with someone else: that’s what it’s all about, at least for me. Marriages founder for a variety of reasons, and ofttimes they’re valid reasons, sad and inescapable. But “I want to have sex with other people” is not a valid reason for depriving two little girls of a daddy who lives with them, gets up at night when they're sick, kisses them in the morning when they wake. There's a word for people who leave their children because they don't want to have sex with Mommy anymore: selfish. I'm not a praying man, but I cannot possibly imagine asking God if that would be okay. Send them another Dad, okay? Until you do I'll keep my cellphone on 24/7, I promise.

Who are you to judge? is the standard response, and I quote Captain James T. Kirk when asked the same question by Kodos the Executioner: who do I have to be? I’ll tell you this: my nightmare is losing my daughter. The idea of leaving her on purpose is inconceivable, and I don’t care if Adriana Lima drove up the driveway in a '57 BelAir convertible, tossed me the keys and asked me to drive her to Rio, it ain’t gonna happen. I made a promise when I married my wife, and I made another when we had our daughter. It's made me rather cranky on the subject of men who don't stick around. They're letting down the side. They're reverting to type. They're talking from their trousers.

I know, I know, his daughters love him & support him now. So what. Hitler’s dog went to his funeral. (No, that doesn’t make sense, but it’s my favorite wrench to throw in conversations this week.) If he’d cast off his family to cavort with a woman from the choir, I’m not sure he’d be elevated to the level of moral avatar – but by some peculiar twist the fact that he left mom for a man insulates him from criticism. It’s as if he had to do it. To stay in the marriage would have been (crack of thunder, horses neighing) living a lie, and nowadays we’re told that’s the worst thing anyone can do. Better to bedevil other lives with the truth than inconvenience your own with a lie. Right? If others are harmed in the short run, eventually they will be happy because you’re happier. Right?

I don’t think it works that way with little children. I don’t think they understand why Dads leave – and so they make up their own reasons and spend years looking for evidence in other people.

Heard an interview with Rev. Robinson this afternoon, and he used a phrase that set my teeth on edge: he referred to partnerships as “life-intentioned.” A wonderful weasel word, that: intention. The escape hatch is built right in. It’s as if the intention to stay together is equal to the expressed promise to stay together. But it’s not. Everyone had a faithless lover who did you wrong, and usually blamed everything but free will. It just happened, you know. Wasn’t intending to cheat, but . . . it just happened, okay?

Tonight I told my wife that I now regarded our marriage vows not as a solemn promise, but an expression of my intentions.

Ever seen those “Bringing Up Father” cartoons where Jiggs flees the house, trailed by a fusillade of rolling pins and frying pans?

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